Millions of Americans drink decaf coffee to get that perfectly bitter taste without all the jitters.
Well news flash! There’s no such thing as naturally occurring decaf coffee. ALL coffee beans come with caffeine naturally. For coffee to be considered decaf most sources agree at least 95% majority of the original caffeine content needs to have been removed. Yes, you heard me right! “Majority of the original caffeine.” Which means no matter what you’re still consuming some caffeine. There is no such thing as decaf.
So, how exactly do you get decaf coffee?
But, here are some methods that extract most of it.
The first reported method of decaffeination was created by Ludwig Roselius in 1905. Roselius used benzene to remove caffeine from moistened green coffee beans. Benzene is now known to be a carcinogen, so it’s not recommended to try this technique. But all modern methods of decaffeination start in this same way. Green coffee beans are moistened, which makes the caffeine soluble, and then the caffeine is extracted. They simply use different techniques to remove the caffeine. The methods most commonly used are the direct solvent method, carbon dioxide method, Swiss water method, and mountain water method.
Let’s dive into what these methods exactly are. First, we’ll talk about the direct solvent method. This is the most popular method of decaffeinating coffee. The direct solvent method uses either methylene chloride or ethyl acetate to extract caffeine. Coffee beans are soaked and then immersed in the solvent, which attaches to the caffeine molecules. The solvent is then recaptured in an evaporator, and the beans are washed. Any remaining solvent residues are removed with steaming. The beans are dried and go on to be roasted like any other green coffee. Now, moving onto the carbon dioxide method. This method of decaffeination is similar to the direct solvent method, but uses pressurized carbon dioxide. The liquid carbon dioxide is circulated through the moist green coffee beans and attaches to the caffeine. It is then allowed to evaporate or passed through charcoal filters. This proprietary water method uses green coffee extract and carbon to remove caffeine by osmosis. Don’t be put off by that term – you don’t need to understand much science to get how it works. The coffee beans are immersed in very hot water and then introduced to a mixture of water and green coffee extract. This mixture has already been reduced in caffeine. Because the green coffee extract wants to create balance, it draws the caffeine from the immersed beans. The water from each bath is then passed through activated charcoal, which traps the caffeine. The coffee beans pass through a series of these baths to remove almost all the caffeine. And the water and green coffee extract can then be reused in another bath. Lastly, let’s cover the mountain water method. This is another proprietary method that uses glacier water to extract caffeine. That uses a special filter to remove caffeine. The resulting caffeine-free water-based solution is saturated with solid coffee solubles from the beans and this water is used again in the extraction process. Because both this method and the Swiss Water one don’t use chemicals, some consumers see them as safer and healthier options.
After going through these decaffeination methods, you may be asking are these methods of decaffeination bad for me? Many of us drink coffee on a daily basis, but not everyone wants the caffeine boost that goes with it. These days decaf options are everywhere, even in posh coffees and with rare bean varieties, but many people are concerned that the methods used to remove the caffeine could be bad for our health. Our advice is that if you do choose decaf, let your taste buds be your guide and don’t worry too much about how it was made.
So do you drink regular or decaf?
Either way, whatever you choose we support you. As long as coffee is in your mug we’re behind you!
As always, “drink better coffee”.